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Corner Momentum

by The "Professor" Gary Bailey


Hey guys Professor Bailey here again with another Moto how-to tip. This one came about when of a reader came up to me at the Washougal National. After telling me how much he appreciated the articles and how much it has helped his riding, he and his buddy wanted to know how to carry more momentum through the corners? So, from that conversation, I decided to do an article on not only how to carry better momentum through the corners but perhaps more importantly how to practice doing that skill.

Cooper Webb Update
Many of you probably know that I have been coaching Cooper Webb since early in his amateur career. Cooper is almost done with his second full season on the outdoor circuit and things are going pretty well. Running second in the series (until a DNF this last weekend) is not too bad for an eighteen year old battling the fastest riders in the world, week in and week out. Oh well, like they say, it is what it is, but I must admit it sure would be easier if Cooper could get some good starts. He got one this past weekend but I would like to see those consistently every moto. There are so many little things that add up at this level but for sure when Coop gets a good start, running up front is a whole lot easier. As good as the top riders are in that class, it's never really easy. Well, after that DNF, because electric staters don’t work well when hot, he is still third overall in the points. The good news is second is not too far away with four motos left and some good finishes, Cooper can get back into second to finish the outdoor series.

Don’t Think About Going Faster
Okay, let's get to what you really want to hear about: how to carry better momentum and ride faster. The first thing that you need to learn about going faster and carrying better momentum is to NOT think about going faster and DO think about how to carry more momentum. Sometimes when you try to “just go faster” the result is making way too many mistakes. For example, if you come into a turn too hot and mess up the entrance, the middle and exit also end up wrong.

Work on the center of the turn and the exit first.  Be sure you have good control and control the traction out.

To illustrate, I’ll tell you a story of a rider I worked with recently. This rider happened to be on a  65cc but I see this with all level riders. Here was the situation. There was a 180° turn with both an inside and outside line. The outside line was a bowl turn and the inside had a fairly good rut. At the exit of the turn there was a short straightaway approximately 75 to 100 feet long followed by a step-up jump of maybe 35 feet. In this situation the rider was not doing the step-up because he wasn’t comfortable and felt like he didn’t have enough speed to make the leap.

Even when I told the rider he could make the jump with no problem he still refused. Again, the main reason he would not attempt the jump was because he felt like he was not going fast enough. From my point of view, speed was not the problem. The problem was he was executing the corner before the step-up so poorly that when he exited the turn he was so out of control that he lost all momentum leading up to the jump. So the jump was not the problem. Proper execution of the turn before the jump was.

The Process of Making the Jump
First, I let him go around the berm and get a straighter run at the jump and the step-up was no problem. Next, I made him wait to the same point where he would be accelerating coming around the outside berm and again the step-up was no problem. Next, we went back on the track and I instructed him to hit the outside berm. In this situation when he exited the turn, he got on the gas so hard that the bike got squirrelly, messing up his rhythm which made him not attempt the jump. So we made a new plan. This time when he hit the outside berm I told him I did not want him to hit the gas until he passed where I was standing which was a little ways down from the exit of the turn but far enough away for him to gather enough speed to clear the jump. He got on the gas a little bit sooner than what I wanted but his exit was smooth and he made the jump. Next, I moved about 10 feet closer to the step up and told him to wait until he got to me and heard me yell, “Go!” Needless to say, my young student did not like that idea at all. After a few minutes of conversation, mostly by me, he did what I asked and made the step-up.

After you get the center and the exit of the turn right then you can start working on coming in faster.

Next, we tried the same thing from the inside rut. At first he wasn’t having any of that but after more conversation I convinced him that if he wanted to be competitive at Lorettas, he was going to have to learn how to jump the step-up when exiting from the inside of the turn. All the fast kids would be hitting the jump from the inside so eventually he gave it a try. Needless to say he blew the corner so bad there was no way was he going to do the step-up.

Eventually he figured out that the key to making the jump was executing the turn cleanly enough to carry enough speed (more momentum) to clear the jump. Clean turn, step-up done... no problem. That was easy….only took over an hour! So the point of the story is, if you don't execute the entire corner perfectly and carry good momentum, you won’t have the speed needed for the next straightaway or the next obstacle.

The How-to of Carrying Better Momentum
The key to carrying better momentum is to work backwards. Start by working on the middle and the exit of the turn first. Don't worry about how fast you enter the turn. Come in with good momentum and be smooth. When you get to the center of the turn use your clutch and your throttle to control the power and the traction exiting the turn. Read that again…use your clutch with the throttle. When you get to the center of the turn pull the clutch in a little bit and use it like you would when you're doing a start and give it a smooth feed. Take your time and don't release it too fast. Of course, as you start going faster this is going to change somewhat. Keep working on the center and your exit until you are as aggressive as you can possibly be and you have good traction and control.

Don't push to hard and try to do it all perfect the first time. It will take some time to get it right.
Only perfect practice makes perfect.

Once you’ve mastered the middle and exit, now start working on the entrance. Again don't come in too fast. A big mistake made by a lot of riders is they brake too hard and release the front brake too fast. The first problem is if you brake too hard. Here you will have a tendency to have a stop in the middle of the turn, which is not good. The second problem is it upsets the suspension too much. Do not release the brake too quickly or too soon. When the front end of the bike is locked down slightly it tends to turn better. When the brake is released too quickly it causes the forks to extend too fast. It's like sliding the forks up or down in the clamps to change the steering angle. By using a little front brake in the turn it is easier to control the bike and keep it leaning over. Again, remember that every turn is going to be different; the bigger the berm or rut, the more you can use the front brake into and through the turn.

Don't forget to downshift entering the turn when necessary. Don’t abuse the clutch, just use it enough to get through the turn smoothly. Let the compression of the motor and both brakes help carry the bike into the turn a little more aggressively. If you lose too much momentum coming in, there will be less available upon exit.

No matter what you're racing whether it's two wheels or four, dirt or pavement, it's about carrying good momentum through the entire corner. Remember, if you feel a pause in the middle of the turn, you're over braking. Also remember to work center out before worrying about how fast you enter the turn. Another thing to remember is to NOT pull the clutch all the way in when entering the turn. This will cause the rear wheel to freewheel causing you to use too much braking going into the turn. With the clutch in, you will also have a tendency to slide the rear wheel losing some control going into the turn.

Hope this information helps you to understand how to carry better momentum through a turn and gives you some ideas and things to practice. And remember, if you have a suggestion for an article, please post it and I'll see what I can do to help. Until next time, Professor Bailey here saying, have fun and ride safe.

Thank you for checking out this article. Other similar articles can be found in the archive section. I hope all of my articles help you become a better, safer rider no matter what your skill level. Because I am in semi retirement after 43-years teaching full-time, I only do private one-on-one coaching or with a small group of riders. Most of my time is spent in Virginia, however, if you are on the west coast I do spend some of the winter months in California visiting my kids and grandkids. If you are interested in scheduling a coaching session shoot me an email or go to my website. You can come to the mountain or the mountain will come to you!

That's it for now, until next time, good luck with your training and remember, if you have a question, log on to the Virtual Trainer Expert Forum and have your question answered by a panel of experts. In addition, be sure and check out the Racer X Virtual Trainer archive section. Your complete one-stop information zone for motocross fitness. VT Signature

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  1. Gravatar
    Moto Mike August 14, 2014 at 11:35 am

    So, may I take it that you're no longer wack-ing us MX students on the knuckles for not aggressively using our front brakes in corners?

    Sure hope so!

    On a recent x-ray from an MX crash, you can still see where Gary MISSED and broke my wrist!

    Don't worry Professor! That was coming up on 40 years ago and I've never forgotten "lessons learned" that has led to my own 41 years of continued success in off-road competition!

  2. Gravatar
    Jz427 August 14, 2014 at 12:57 pm

    Hopefully prof. GB will give instruction on proper body positioning for corners and ruts!
    I know i need it for handling deep inside ruts.
    "Professor Bailey, body positioning, cornering, riding ruts, keeping momentum inside ruts"

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